Nothing Lasts Forever

Once upon a time, there was a Roman general, in charge of a garrison on the outskirts of the Empire.  It was the middle of the fourth century, and he could feel the earth shifting under his feet, so he called his lieutenants together and said, “Things are changing.  The hordes are approaching, and the people are afraid.  They’re losing trust in our ability to protect them, so we’ve got to sharpen our methods, and sharpen our spears.  I’ve investing in some new weapons, and I’m going to try some new ways to communicate battle plans across the legion.  I’ve also been reading about the latest in warfare techniques, which I’ll be implementing little.

“But rest assured,” he continued, “There will always be a Roman Empire.  And there will always be Roman legions, generals, and lieutenants, for we provide an invaluable service.”

***

Once upon a time, there was a lord who lived in a castle on the top of a hill, in 13th century Europe.  Realizing that the serfs were getting restless, he summoned all of his knights and landholders to the castle, and he told them, “The times are changing. In some parts of our world, people are writing documents of law and demanding to have elected representation.  So we’ve got to adjust with the times.  I want you to mix with the vassals, listen to what they have to say, and put up a suggestion box in the square.  Equip them with some new rakes and hoes.

“But worry not,” he concluded, “As long as there are hills, there will be lords upon those hills.  There will always be fiefdoms.  There will always be lords and knights and serfs.  That will never change.”

***

Once upon a time, in the plains of early 19th century North America, there was a U.S. Army general who oversaw a fort on the frontier.  His scouts were telling him that the Natives were getting restless, so he gathered his officers together for a meeting.  “Gentlemen, the Indians are gathering to attack, and the settlers are unsettled.  We need to change up our methods, to work with the Indians and cooperate with the settlers.  I’ve been reading about new leadership techniques, and I want you to implement a new workflow that takes our new realities into account.

“But don’t fret,” he said with confidence, “There will always be a frontier, there will always be Savages, and there will always be Army forts.  We may change how we do business, but we will always be here, for they could never manage this massive continent without us.”

Moral of the stories: Nothing lasts forever.

Epilogue: This is my contribution to the conversation on the future of denominations being curated by Faith & Leadership.

  • http://www.poptheology.com parker

    i find it interesting that, in these stories, the nothing that doesn’t last forever is simply an oppressor

  • Ann

    except death and taxes.

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com Ted Seeber

    The problem is that there is always an worse oppressor waiting in the wings. Got rid of rulership by religion, encouraged freedom, got rulership by the mob. Got rid of rulership by the mob, got rulership by the corrupt representative. Removed rulership by the corrupt representative, now have rulership by the financial industry.

    The groups change, but the oppression remains the same.

  • The Misfit Toy

    Disagree.

    Maybe the current denominations are slowly dying. I’m not a futurist so I don’t know how to comment on that.

    But it seems like there is a natural cycle of wrestling with an issue, writing down the answer, living with the written down answer until we forget why we had the answer written on the page. If there are churches, there will be denominations. Maybe the new ones will work hard to avoid “The D Word”, but that doesn’t make them not a denomination.

  • Alan K

    Interesting post but it is not Theoblogy. It is one thing to say that institutions have a half-life. It is another thing to say that denominations are obstructing God’s saving of the world and that they do not manifest the culture of Jesus Christ. If you want to say the latter then say the latter and explain how and why.

  • http://soulache.posterous.com Trey Lyon

    This denominational talk reminds me of political language. There’s several reason why a post-partisan era hasn’t emerged but I think it’s because people have been conditioned to think categorically because an elected representative must reflect the diversity of his or her constituency–which is, in essence, a compromise of sorts that is then spoke of categorically.

    From a philosophical standpoint, that’s the legacy or Aristotle–categorical logic gives us a way to order reality. If we are truly witnessing the collapse of denominations than the question is what (if anything) will replace them and how will it differ from what denominations did?

    If the capital C “Church” is to have any sort of unity and exchange and ideas then there has to be some nexus to communicate and articulate and share communion. I’m not sure what that would be in the apocalyptic post-denominational future.

  • http://apolarity.com Adrenalin Tim

    We can adjust our faith to fit the times,
    We can allow scientific and psychological knowledge to inform and augment our understanding of how the world works,
    We can modify our ecclesiology. . .

    But don’t worry, Christianity will last forever.

  • Andrew

    Luk 21:33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (red letters)
    Jesus didn’t promise that denominations would not pass away. Jesus’ call for holiness and righteousness have not changed and will not change. Jesus’ command to call people to repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins has not changed.

    Has the idea of salvation only occurring through the blood of Jesus not lasted forever? Is that to fall?

  • http://youcantmeanthat.blogspot.com Steven D

    I hate to say it, but if this is meant to express the downfall of denominations or even the need for it, then your argument is severely lacking. See Alan K’s comment above.

  • Eddie Green

    I think actually what we are witnessing is the end of Protestantism.

    Not the end of Reformation – that is ongoing.

  • Ted Seeber

    If the protest is ending, where does that leave the Reformation?

  • Eddie Green

    Or perhaps we are protesting against protestantism?

    But I suspect the Church has always been reforming.

  • http://www.willpenner/blog Will Penner

    Nice analogy–fitting not only for our denominational fiefdoms, but also for our other causes (political parties, coalitions, and even country).

  • http://matybigfro.blogspot.com matybigfro

    Moral of the story
    things change but mostly just the names
    the legions, generals, and lieutenants
    became the castles, Knights and Lords
    who became goverments, industrialists and laW makers
    -
    Denominations rise and fall, dominate or struggle, swell or shrivel, and withing a few hundred years there ‘s a whole nother batch of them ready to start the same rollercoaster

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